It’s hardly an historical document, but amongst the papers in the basement of the Deanery in Kilkenny, there is a letter that says much about Ireland in the 1950s:
CHURCH OF IRELAND
THE IRISH LAND FINANCE COMPANY LTD
33 KILDARE STREET
It has been thought advisable to draw the attention of the clergy to one method whereby some check may be applied to the continuing decrease in Church population, this being a very serious matter in many parishes, and one which, at Diocesan level, gives rise to grave concern for the future well-being of our Church.
The Irish Land Finance Company is in a position to lend sums of money to approved applicants with the object of establishing them on their own farms. Sons of farmers may thus be enabled to marry at an earller age than is often possible, and may remain working on the land instead of going abroad. Advances are also made for other purposes at the discretion of the Directors.
Repayment of capital by borrowers is expected within 10 years and the rate of interest charged is governed by current interest. The Board of Directors meets once a month and is composed of twelve gentlemen of large experience from different parts of the country, and includes seven Directors nominated by the Representative Church Body. They give their services free of all fees or expenses.
The clergy are requested to bear in mind that the Company is most anxious to assist any suitable parishioner, now or in the future; and to make a note of the address given.
Is that where things had reached by 1956?
The church in the New Testament grew through its preaching and through the fellowship people found amongst its members; nineteen centuries later the Church of Ireland was seeking to survive through loans to bachelor farmers.
Certainly, it had to cope with the effects of the Roman Catholic Ne Temere decree, which dictated that the children of inter-church marriages should be brought up as Roman Catholics,and the virulent anti-Protestant stance of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who while Archbishop of Dublin seemed at times to be more powerful than the government, but trying to buy a future seems, in retrospect, a road to nowhere. The failure of the approach is manifest in the fact that it would be forty years later before the decline in Church of Ireland numbers was arrested.
Wouldn’t Jesus have done things very differently? But if Jesus had been in charge, neither church would have turned out the way it did.
Most disturbing of all, Googling the Irish Land Finance Company shows its registered office in 1926 being not in Dublin, but in Co Laois. Its address was:
The Irish Land Finance Company, Limited.
Registered Offices: The Rectory, Mountrath, Queen’s Co.
That’s my address!
It’s time to do things differently.